For some people, merely seeing food can trigger a desire to eat — whether they are hungry or not. If this sounds like you, mindful eating can help you gain awareness and make deliberate decisions about food. Don’t think of this practice as a diet or a way of depriving yourself — in fact, it can boost your enjoyment of food. Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment. Mindful eating involves giving full attention to the smell, taste, feel, and texture of food — as well as your thoughts and feelings about it.
Mindful eating has been shown to:
- Slow you down, making you more aware of portion sizes.
- Increase your awareness of appetite, including hunger and satiety.
- Reduce overeating and binge eating.
- Help you lose weight and reduce your body mass index (BMI).
- Improve your relationship with food.
- Help some people cope with chronic eating problems such as anorexia and bulimia.
- Prompt enjoyment of the taste, smell, and textures of food as well as the overall experience of eating.
With practice, you can use mindful eating to choose foods your body needs for good health and enjoy less healthy food in moderation.
The art of checking in with yourself
One small step toward becoming a mindful eater is learning to pay attention to your food in a different way. Next time you eat, try using this checklist for connecting with your food. You can focus on one area at a time and build up to the entire checklist as you incorporate each piece into your eating practice.
Ask yourself: Am I tasting each bite, smelling and aroma, and feeling the texture of the food?
Ask yourself: How does my body feel before and after I eat? Am I hungry? Am I full? Am I bored?
Ask yourself: What feelings do I have about this food? Do I feel shame? Do I feel pleasure?
Ask yourself: What am I associating with this food? Do I have memories connected with it? What are my beliefs about it?
More tips for getting started with mindful eating
- Eat only when you are hungry.
- Have meals at the table with your family.
- Take smaller bites of your food to enjoy the aroma, texture, and flavor.
- Avoid distractions like having the television on or taking telephone calls while eating.
- Take time to chew your food thoroughly and notice the taste.
- Take a moment to be thankful for your food.
- Notice what you are thinking and feeling while eating the food.
Mindful eating is a powerful tool to regain control of your habits surrounding food. Keep in mind that mastering this tool can take time; start slowly and build skills as you go. Remember to notice and appreciate your progress.